The 10 Best Backpacks for College in 2021

portrait of Marisa Upson
by Marisa Upson

Published on October 5, 2021 · Updated on March 4, 2022

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The 10 Best Backpacks for College in 2021

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A study conducted at the University of Oklahoma revealed that college students walk, on average, 11,473 steps every day — or about five miles. And what accompanies a student on their trek from classes to activities and the library? Their backpack!

Whether you plan on carrying heavy textbooks and a laptop or a pair of shoes for the gym, your backpack will play an important role in your college experience. That's why we scouted out the top 10 backpacks for college, as well as the different qualities each brings to the table.

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Top 10 Backpacks for College Students

Herschel Heritage Classic Backpack

Known for its streamlined design, the Heritage Classic stays true to the brand's functional yet stylish backpack approach. If you like light, classy backpacks, this may be the best pack for you. It features a large compartment with a sleeve that can hold a 15-inch laptop and a small media pocket with a headphone port. The large exterior pocket comes with a key clip.

The classic black color with a saddle brown faux leather bottom is one of 23 available designs. The air mesh back padding and cushioned straps help keep you comfortable as you make your way across campus.

Fjallraven Kanken Laptop Backpack

Sweden's Fjallraven has been creating comfortable, functional backpacks designed for trekking since 1960. In 1978, the Kanken line emerged, which later developed into a classic laptop version of the brand's popular backpack. This pack carries up to a 15-inch laptop in a special padded compartment and comes with a removable seat pad.

It's made from Vinylon F — a water- and dirt-resistant durable synthetic fiber — making it perfect for students who spend a lot of time outdoors. The ergonomically designed padded shoulder straps also make for a comfortable journey between classes. It comes in 17 colors inspired by nature, including acorn, forest green, and autumn leaf.

The North Face Jester School Laptop Backpack

The North Face — a brand known for rugged outdoor adventure — brings its top-of-the-line technology to its best backpacks for school. The padded mesh back, injection-molded shoulder straps, and sternum strap of this pack help reduce back and shoulder strain. It holds an endorsement from the American Chiropractic Association.

The large main compartment includes a padded laptop sleeve, and the front bungee system provides additional storage. The design also features two external water bottle pockets and a reflective bike-light loop that ensures visibility on the road, making this one of the best backpacks for bikers. It also comes in a variety of colors, including taupe green, Moroccan blue, and mineral grey.

High Sierra Loop Backpack

If you're an ultra-organized student with a place for everything, and if your school backpack doubles as a trail pack, the Loop backpack may be especially appealing.

The pack's multiple compartments include a dedicated media pocket with a headphone port, a hanging accessory pocket, and an organizer with a zippered mesh pocket. When you're ready to hit the trails, use the adjustable bottom webbing straps to carry your sleeping bag or jacket. The pack also comes with a front clip that can hold a water bottle and compression straps that help you cinch up your gear.

KOPACK Slim Laptop Backpack

If you're looking for a stylish option that can protect your belongings, this backpack offers a hidden laptop compartment behind the straps, a dedicated tablet sleeve, and lockable zippers to help keep your gadgets secure. It also comes with five external pockets — including two zipped front pockets — and an external USB port.

Made out of tear-resistant Oxford fabric (commonly used in dress shirts), this pack looks sleek and refined. The thick, well-padded breathable back and shoulder straps provide extra support and comfort. Looking at it, you would never guess that it contains 17 different storage spaces.

Oakley Urban Backpack

If you like to take an extra pair of shoes with you for trips to the gym or a quick switch from sandals to heels, this backpack may meet your needs. With a unique shoe pocket, you can keep your footwear separate from the rest of your gear. The pack also features a cushioned pocket for your glasses.

This large-capacity backpack provides a padded laptop sleeve, an exterior water bottle holder, and interior pockets. Made out of Cordura fabric, you can count on this pack's strength, durability, and water resistance.

Incase ICON Lite Backpack With Woolenex

This stylish, streamlined backpack looks deceptively simple and minimalistic in design. Its top zipper reveals a compartment lined with faux fur that keeps your sunglasses, smartphone, and small devices safe and accessible. A horizontal front zipper unveils a pocket large enough to hold everyday items.

Made out of ultra-durable Woolenex that repels mildew and water, the woven polyester material resists wear and tear while protecting your laptop. A dedicated compartment fits up to a 16" laptop, while the main compartment provides space for notebooks and other essentials.

Timbuk2 Spire Laptop Backpack 2.0

Are you a MacBook Pro or iPad aficionado? If so, you might be interested in this backpack. The Spire, created for Apple users, fits a 15-inch MacBook Pro and holds an iPad in a separate compartment.

The exterior daisy chain webbing lets you attach carabiners — convenient devices for connecting your keychain or water bottle — and a U-lock for your bike. Made out of canvas fabric and water-resistant thermoplastic urethane, you can count on this backpack to keep your computer dry. The pack also features an attached bottle opener.

Terra Thread Sustainable Backpack

If you feel driven to live a sustainable life, you may be attracted to Terra Thread's handmade, eco-friendly, sustainable backpack. This pack is made from Fair Trade Certified organic cotton. The backpack comes in 11 colors and holds to environmental standards prohibiting the use of toxic chemicals.

The pack features a laptop compartment and a small interior hanging pocket. On the exterior, you'll find two side pockets for water bottles and a large front pocket. The company uses no plastic or unnecessary packaging for shipping.

JanSport Right Pack

For over 50 years, JanSport has created backpacks for outdoor enthusiasts and students. The Right Pack features the brand's signature suede leather bottom, a padded laptop sleeve, two front pockets, and a side water bottle pocket. It's also made of durable Cordura fabric and comes with an organizer.

The company stands behind its promise of a durable and reliable product by offering a lifetime guarantee. If it breaks down, you can send it back, and they will fix it or replace it. In addition, with the many designs and colors to choose from, you can display your personality in bright, floral, or evergreen tones.

Feature Image: kajakiki / E+ / Getty Images

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